No Love for a 'Dark Knight' Yet Again

Christopher Nolan's Batman franchise has terrible awards luck. Ben Travers asks why...

The Dark Knight Rises

Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Anne Hathaway, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Morgan Freeman, Matthew Modine, Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Warner Bros.
Year: 2012
US date: 2012-07-20 (General release)
UK date: 2012-07-20 (General release)

Let me get this out of the way right off the bat (no pun intended): I am not a Dark Knight Rises apologist. While it’s not nearly the mess of a movie some people make it out to be, it messed up too much of the source story and had one too many twists. Bottom line, it wasn’t the cultural landmark its predecessor was in 2008.

That, though, highlights the problem with the Academy giving exactly zero nominations to Christopher Nolan’s epic conclusion to his Batman trilogy.

The AMPAS love handing out make-up Oscars. No, I’m not talking about the Makeup and Hairstyling category that always goes to some obscure period piece. I’m talking about the Academy’s love of giving out Oscars to the wrong performances and films because they made a mistake on the first go ‘round.

We can all agree on the following: Return of the King was not the best of the Lord of the Rings franchise. Al Pacino’s best performance was not in Scent of a Woman. Martin Scorsese should have more than one Oscar.

Can we also agree the main reason we have more than five nominees for Best Picture is because critics, pundits, and the public threw a collective hissy fit when The Dark Knight wasn’t nominated for Best Picture?

I don’t see how anyone can deny it. No one saw or really even liked The Reader, but somehow it beat out the universally adored second entry in the new Bat-franchise (I say somehow like I don’t know how, but clearly the Great and Powerful Weinsteins pulled off another magic trick when they got their movie in over The Dark Knight). The very next year the Academy upped the nominees from five to 10, and we had to suffer the indignity of listening to people describe The Blind Side as a Best Picture nominee.

So why, when the Academy loves making up for its mistakes and clearly recognized they made one in 2008, did they not throw Christopher Nolan a bone and give The Dark Knight Rises a Best Picture nod?

Clearly, they don’t vote as a single unit, so discussing it like it was a collective decision is a mistake. I’m guessing the new voting system screwed Nolan and Co. over. You need five percent of the first place votes to snag a Best Picture nomination, and I bet it was too hard for voters who wanted to show their respect for the franchise to list the final, flawed entry as their best film of the year. It would have been nice to see it in the mix, but there’s a reason most people weren’t shocked to see it on the outside looking in.

Even if it’s not on the level of the Best Picture contenders, there was plenty to admire in the technical aspects of the film. Dark Knight Oscar winner Richard King’s sound design was flawless and Hans Zimmer’s score as relentless as ever. The visual effects, though limited, were integrated beautifully into the impressive sets.

All of these categories recognized The Dark Knight in 2008, but none of the respective voters felt the need to honor its successor in 2012. Did these technical gurus share the same bit of mild disappointment with Rises as the rest of us? Were there really just that many better movies out there? I find it hard to believe considering Argo and Lincoln were nominated for sound, and the completely forgettable score for Life of Pi was also recognized. They must have just liked those movies more.

Meanwhile, poor Christopher Nolan had to face the wrath of the Academy yet again. Ignored for both The Dark Knight and Inception, the three-time DGA nominee has never been recognized by the Academy for his work behind the camera. He’s been nominated for screenplay twice and picture once, but there was no such consolation for the incredibly well liked director this time around.

With the snubs of more widely respected directors like Kathryn Bigelow, it was obviously difficult to break into the directing field in 2012. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call Nolan’s exclusion an oversight, but blanking out his movie in every category seems to reflect his bad luck with the Academy.

Here’s hoping he comes back even more determined with his next entry, and the Academy finally shows him the respect he has most definitely earned.

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